Surfing with Ed on the Internet…

by Ed Swires-Hennessy, Local Government Data Unit - Wales

Ed continues his appraisals of different national Web Sites to stimulate use of the Internet, share best practice and encourage debate.

I borrowed a book from the Office for National Statistics library a few weeks ago titled ‘Statistics of Centuries: Statistical curios in the Hungarian history’.  The statistics are fascinating but the presentation is one of the best I have seen and certainly gripped me as I read through the many interesting facts. So it was that the Hungarian Central Statistical Office became the subject of this month’s web visit at The site is bilingual, though the transfer between the two languages always takes one to the home page in the other language.

The home page is actually three and a half pages long and, with a few graphics, is not instantaneous to load. It is very busy with two different sets of navigation and a two-column approach for the information. The presentation of the information is clear though too detailed for a home page.

The calendar of releases of statistics – for the whole of 2002 - is well organised and even gives the user a choice of sorted and time period – cutting down the amount of information to be sifted. When opening the Economic and Financial data page, I could not see any data, though links were apparent (in fact these links were bookmarks to the data tables below): but a significant amount of summary data was below the visible area. Within the data table both horizontal and vertical scrolling were required – only because the full web address of the ‘more detail’ pages were given: linking the pages to ‘Details’ or ‘Explanation’ would probably save the scrolling - especially if linked to the change of typeface to be more like the rest of the branches from this home page. Some inconsistency of data presentation is apparent here relative to the rest of the site.

Within the major parts of the site a background to the pages is used – and one that surprised me having read the book mentioned above – of a three-dimensional block chart in perspective. This particular graphic was probably introduced by the site-designers: a caution for us all to check thoroughly the design-work within our sites.

The introduction to the office is good and links to a page of experts (which was 12 screens long and not sorted, at least in the English version, in a user-friendly way: some hierarchical splitting of the information, using bookmarks or separate pages, would help. The ‘services’ page is bland and needs development – even with a few words. Information on the library, under ‘institutions’, was extremely helpful, inviting and open longer than the ONS library and information service.

The heading ‘Major data’ is the entry only to the one, book-marked, page of Hungary in Figures. Presentation uses a few small graphics to liven up the pages. The real data is available from a subscription-service STADAT: this service also provides the latest data on any subject and usually in two formats, MS Word and PDF. Where large parts of the release are in the form of tables, these are provided separately in MS Excel format.

So where are the data? Obviously in the ‘Major data’ section and in the subscription service, STADAT: but also hidden behind the ‘Further figures’ link just below the headline data on the right hand top of the home page.  This provides much more than the description notes, including the latest data in HTML tables for a vast range of topics – and free! This section also links to an exceptionally comprehensive glossary.

Some inconsistency within the site was disappointing: use of different fonts in tables (serif and sans-serif) and use of both a full stop and a comma to denote the decimal separator. Overall though this site is worth a visit to look at the presentation and organisation of information – even if you have to search hard for the publicly available information!.

This review was undertaken using Internet Explorer version 5.0 on 10 May at 08.00 hrs GMT using a 128 Kbit link to the Internet on a Pentium III 866 MHz machine.

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